Conversions on the Move: On-Site Search for M-Commerce

By Mark Brixton | 08 Sep 2011

Mark Brixton from SLI Systems, provides best practice m-commerce site search tips to enhance the mobile user-experience and encourage conversions on the move!

According to Nielsen, ‘one in ten Australian online shoppers use their mobile device to make a purchase’*. Due to this rapid ascension of mobile commerce within the local landscape, offering an optimised and easy to use mobile website or application has become paramount to ensuring success within this channel.

The screens of smartphone devices such as the iPhone, Android or BlackBerry are simply too small to provide a user-friendly experience when accessing standard web-based sites. Therefore, the first m-commerce must is to build a site or application that specifically takes into account these physical constraints.

Retailers also need to take into consideration the intention and needs of a customer who accesses  information through a mobile device. Nielsen research has found that the peak times for mobile purchases were during transit (on the bus or train), at lunch or at home after dinner**, suggesting that convenience and perhaps a touch of ‘filling out a spare moment’ is perpetuating mobile browsing and transactions.

Drastically reduced screen real estate and typing functionality, coupled with the varying data speeds from mobile providers can hinder mobile browsing activity, making on-site search a critical element for providing an efficient, optimised m-commerce experience.

Without fast and relevant on-site search, retailers will struggle to create an m-commerce experience that encourages visitors to purchase. Consumers will also struggle to quickly find what they want on a mobile site that doesn’t offer easy searching capabilities, and will abandon their search (and the eventual purchase). It’s a vital part of the mobile web-browsing experience.

In order to enhance the on-site search for your mobile applications retailers should keep in mind the following best practice tips:

1. Consider giving the search box prominent placement on a mobile site. Whether you choose a browser-based or app-based mobile site, the search box should be even more prominent than the placement on your standard website, preferably located at the top of the page. This is crucial because the search box enables users to find the product they are looking for faster, leading to quicker conversions.

2. Ensure search results are relevant. Scrolling through pages of results or clicking on refinement options requires more time for additional page loads. If the results are relevant and display the information customers are looking for on the first page of results, this will eliminate the need for scrolling and enhance the user experience.

3. List the most popular items first. The odds are good that when a customer conducts a search on a mobile device, they are looking for a product that others have successfully searched for. Push the most popular results for a given search term to the top of the list, so that customers can complete searches faster.

4. Offer results for synonyms. Accounting for synonyms is also a good idea, so visitors don’t have to type in a new term. In case shoppers aren’t sure of an exact product term, it helps to offer a link to results for similar keywords. Links to similar results help shoppers avoid having to type in additional search terms, and speed the way towards purchase.

5. Include ‘sort-by’ options at the bottom of the results page. Showing the options to sort by price, brand or popularity should be moved to the bottom of the page, in order to prevent pushing too many results below the fold. You can also give users the option of refining their search via a single click expandable link, which means the refinement options don’t take up screen real estate until they’re clicked on.

6. Include easy access to product ratings and reviews. One use of the mobile shopping site is to access product ratings and reviews while shopping in-store. User reviews can be the best way to give visitors the detail they need to make a purchasing decision, so it is important to include them in your mobile site. For example, Motorcycle Superstore includes star ratings for their products in the search results pages.

7. Make it possible for customers to ‘check availability’ at local stores from on-site search results. Provide this as a link so that customers can enter their postcode and see what nearby locations might have the item in stock. You can take it a step further and allow them to place the item on hold, to be picked up at a later time.

For more m-commerce insights, download Power Retail’s M-Commerce 2.0 – Retailing on the Move Special Report.

*PayPal, ‘mCommerce Secure Insight’, March 2011, Australia
**PayPal, ‘mCommerce Secure Insight’, March 2011, Australia

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